Red Bull does it again! Vettel took pole in China by a quarter of a second from his teammate Mark Webber. It's another Red Bull front row, but it wasn't looking that good for them earlier in the weekend.
McLaren had been very strong during practice and the first two stages of qualifying, but it looks as though Red Bull didn't try too hard to top the timesheets in the early sessions and still had quite a lot of speed left for the top 10 shoot-out. In Q2, Hamilton was top with a time of 1:34.928 while the Red Bulls were 2-3 tenths behind. Between them, the impressive Nico Rosberg, while the Ferraris also looked to be on Red Bull's pace.
Come Q3, Vettel grabbed provisional pole and Hamilton, although on a fast lap, failed to match him. Webber, who had been ahead of his teammate all weekend, took the top spot off him, but Vettel managed to put together a great lap at the dying moments of the session, finding time mainly in the last sector, to put himself back on pole. Webber must have been gutted but Vettel showed that he can get the job done when he really needs to.
Behind them, the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso, who admitted that he was on the limit of the car and no more was possible. Nico Rosberg will line up next to him on 4th, while his teammate (some bloke called Michael Schumacher) ended up in 9th, having just made it through to Q3.
Jenson Button will be happy to have managed one place more than Hamilton, having been behind him for most of the weekend. Massa was 7th with Kubica 8th and Sutil 10th, and the last two must be quite happy with their regular top 10 spots.
Interestingly, the McLarens were quite a bit slower than Vettel in the last sector, where their F-duct is supposed to be giving them an advantage. Are they on wet-weather set up, hoping for rain to help them gain places in the race?
No one has ever won the Chinese Grand Prix twice.
So far we've had 6 winners: Barrichello, Alonso, Schumacher, Raikkonen, Hamilton and Vettel. All of them but Raikkonen are going to be on the grid tomorrow but I'm sure Webber, Rosberg and Button will be doing their best to keep this statistic going. Also, Massa or Kubica or even Sutil could be in with a chance if it rains and they choose their strategy well.
The last time that we had 4 different winners at the 4 first races of the season was 2003.
We are being treated to a very exciting season, with as many as 6 or 7 drivers fighting for wins. Will we see a fourth winner so early in the season? Massa could really do with a win to show that he's not leading the championship just because of consistency. Also, Webber and Hamilton will be desperate to finish first now that their teammates have both achieved it.
No one has won a race from pole this year.
Vettel's poles in the first two races seemed to bring him bad luck and the win slipped away from him because of reliability problems. He then managed to win in Malaysia while starting 3rd on the grid, by overtaking Rosberg and Webber and heading first down Corner 1. Will he manage to keep his top spot this time? Can Webber or Alonso catch him heading down the first corner?
4 out of 6 Chinese GPs have been won from pole.
One of them being last year's, won by Vettel. If it rains from the beginning, the leader has a big advantage as his visibility is so much better than anyone else's.
Last year there was a strange situation with one team having the fast and reliable car. Red Bull caught up speed-wise, but the engine let them down every now and then.
This weekend, it seems that Ferrari and McLaren are having some trouble. Alonso lost his second engine during FP1 and, although he claims he is not worried about it, Ferrari must be working hard to figure out how to avoid similar problems in the future. With 16 races to go, you want to manage your 6 remaining engines (and only 5 new) carefully.
Both McLaren drivers encountered a frustrating problem with the gears, mainly during their out laps. Trying to go into second gear, the gearbox jumped to neutral, a problem similar to Hamilton's (very costly) failure in the 2007 Brazilian GP. Even if it doesn't affect the race, it could prove quite tricky at the beginning of the race.
Christian Horner (to Seb on the radio after his last lap) "Who needs ride-height control, heh?"